In the latest ArenaNet Blog Post on Guild Wars 2, Systems Designer Mike Ferguson outlines the way WvWvW (World vs. World vs. World) will function in Guild Wars 2. This article will address the strengths and concerns of this design.
The large battle area, called the Mists, made up of four battlefields is a good way to create a “World PvP” feel in an instance. One central battlefield zone with three outlying battlefield zones representing the home locations of each side. Keeps, towers, and resource camps are spread out through the areas.
The primary concern the average MMO player would have is for lag/FPS issues if a large number of people congregate to one area and fight. Games like Warhammer Online and SWToR have resorted to capping the number of people in open world areas to deal with performanceissues. But this detracts from the feel of a huge war on a battlefield. So what ends up happening is limited numbers of people fight on battlefields designed to accommodate more, too vast for them to fill it up and creating an empty world feeling.
ArenaNet has stated that they had been testing the WvWvW zone internally for a while,accommodating 500 or so people comfortably. This is good news, primarily because they know of the potential performance issues that could arise, as well as working on optimization early on in the development cycle. It is good also that the battle areas look sufficiently large and combined with a healthy number of people, will hopefully create a feeling of a large scale war. However, with potentially three servers’ worth of players fighting on a battlefield, good FPS and lag with 500 may turn out to be too low a goal to aim for in regards to performance.
W v W v W – Three factions
One of the major highlights of the Guild Wars 2 WvWvW system is that it will feature faction divisions similar to Dark Age of Camelot, in a three faction set up. This addresses a major issue in faction balance in regards to Open-World PvP areas in games such as Warhammer Online and Star Wars: The Old Republic. The developers for those games spent a lot of time developing the art and feel of each faction, but whether due to the inherent nature of the art style or more attention given by individual designers, the “evil” side drew more players and created large faction balance issues across almost all the servers. In a game with PvP instancing this downside can be mitigated, but if one side outnumbers the other side more than two-to-one, open world PvP doesn’t work.
Guild Wars 2 addresses this by having three servers fight each other for dominance. This achieves two things. First, this acts as a self-balancing mechanism. If one side is too strong, the other two will (theoretically) work together to defeat them, in a “balance of power” type system. One caveat is that it is also possible for two sides to gang up on one, creating a very poor competitive environment. Second, it creates a social environment on a server and helps to create server pride, something that cross-server battlegrounds and instancing popular in today’s MMORPGs has damaged greatly. Third, varied server populations will create new dynamics and interactions every two weeks. Two large servers paired with a small server will play out differently than one large server and two small ones.
By shifting the focus of the WvWvW system to whole servers as opposed to intra-server factions (Horde/Alliance, Order/Destruction, Republic/Empire, etc.) it will hopefully greatly reduce player discontent over and real or perceived class imbalance or favoritism for one side or the other. New players will choose to roll a character based on the community and people on it, rather than the aesthetics or how “OP” one side’s class is.
Objectives that Matter
There will be various objectives of different sizes for players to aim for depending on how many people they have available. Small resource camps can be raided by a group of five, smaller guilds can take watchtowers, and large guilds can siege and captures keeps. Siege weapons can be built, and buildings and walls are destructible, broadening strategy in PvP.
One of the important things is that ArenaNet has created this game with the goal of making battlefield objectives a desirable and integrated part of PvP from the start. MMO veterans remember how tacked-on keeps were in Warhammer Online. They were crammed into the game before launch with little testing and ended up being a disaster. With the system in place, it was more rewarding to take a keep than defend it. This created an environment in Warhammer Online where two large zergs would end up taking turns capping a keep to claim rewards, and the two groups never coming to blows.
In Guild Wars 2, points are gained through holding objectives. Guilds can claim and bolster their keeps, helping to create an incentive for guilds to hold keeps, if for nothing more than pride. At the end of two weeks, the points are tallied into a War Score and server rankings adjusted.
In Guild Wars 2, Orbs of Power will exist which, if captured, will give boosts to your side while fighting in the Mists. These will work in a similar fashion to relics, in that they will start out in keeps in the home locations of each side, but then can be captured and relocated by enemies to their keeps. If it isn’t placed in a new keep quickly, it will return back to where it was taken.
This is a great idea and adds another dimension to combat, as well as providing a way to break stalemates. The system will be similar to the one DAoC has, and help make some keeps more valuable than others, forcing large siege battles.
Final Thoughts – It would be great to see some more information on perhaps an example scenario/battle that has played out on beta servers. It would also be great to see them push performance optimization of the Mists up to 800 players at least. With three servers and the non-subscription model, it is a very real possibility that there will be more than 500 players on the battlefield at once at peak times. 800 is a realistic number, and ArenaNet has not stated if there will add in a hard cap for players numbers. They have not indicated that there will be multiple instances of the same battleground, so it may very well be only one battleground shared by all three servers at one time.